SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

July 2, 2014

New CEOs, new direction, same old fight

Demoulas firing resulted in new leadership, but decades-long feud continues

Last week’s change in leadership for the Demoulas company opened a new chapter in a multibillion-dollar drama that has unfolded over four decades, spawned lawsuits legendary for their size and venom, laid bare an extraordinarily wealthy family’s intrigue, and fueled a smog of uncertainty over a private chain of supermarkets that despite all has continued to succeed and expand.

Former chief executive Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted last Monday by the faction of the board of directors aligned with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and replaced by a pair of CEOs with national experience. Over the years that Arthur T. ran Demoulas, which owns the 71-store Market Basket supermarket chain, he cultivated a fierce loyalty among customers and employees at all levels of the business.

The change of executives likely signals a change in direction for Demoulas and Market Basket, a low-cost supermarket that began as a mom-and-pop grocery in Lowell nearly a century ago.

“All the Market Basket associates are upset,” said Cheri Nolan, general manager of Indian Ridge Country Club in Andover, which Demoulas owns. “We’re all Market Basket associates, not country club employees.”

The uncertainty spread to the club Thursday as a member of the Demoulas board of directors aligned with Arthur S. arrived with a new golf management company, a locksmith and two Andover policemen. The new co-CEOs, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, intervened and called off the change.

Nolan and her team, ardent Arthur T. supporters, remained in place, but they have no idea what the future holds and hold no trust for Arthur S. and little for the new company leadership.

“The CEOs, they have to earn back our trust,” Nolan said.

Arthur T.’s firing included the sacking of two other executives, Vice President of Grocery Joseph Rockwell and Director of Operations William Marsden.

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